Evergreen but forgetable

Evergreen follows Anna Friedman, a beautiful, red-headed Polish Jew, who comes to America alone as a teenager in the early 1900s.

Cover illustration for Evergreen shows Anna and a mansion in the center and two men on other side of them.
Symbolically, elements on Evergreen‘s cover don’t touch.

Anna works in a factory, learns English, reads and studies until she’s able to get work as a maid in a home of an upper crust banking family. There she falls for the son, Paul Werner.

Anna marries another poor immigrant, Joseph Friedman, who has little use for formal education but a great capacity for learning. He sees a fortune to be made in building.

When times get rough, Joseph sends Anna to appeal to the Werners for a loan. Anna gets the loan and a child by Paul.

The rest of the novel follows Anna and the next three generations of her family up to the 1970s.

Evergreen feels more like linked short stories than a novel. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Bella Plain was a popular short story writer before Evergreen, her first novel.

Plain’s characters are complex enough for a short story, but not for a novel. She doesn’t show characters growing; she only shows they have changed.

History, too, is relegated to scene changes. Even the holocaust in Evergreen appears antiseptic.

Evergreen is decent entertainment, free of lurid detail, but totally forgettable.

Evergreen by Bella Plain
Delacorte Press, c1978. 593 p.
1978 bestseller #6. My grade: B-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni


Windswept is Barren and Boring

In September of 1938, two American tourists can watch a convoy of German military trucks carrying unsmiling young soldiers headed for maneuvers on the Rhine. Watching, each woman thinks of home.

On that ominous note, Mary Ellen Chase sets readers up to expect Windswept to be a passionate war story. Instead, Chase gives us a nice, dull book about nice, dull people.

The story begins when a man named Phillip Marston buys a chunk of Maine seacoast on which to build a home for himself and his son, John. He gets it cheap because nobody wants it.

When Phillip is killed in a hunting accident, John, aided by a Bohemian immigrant whom his father befriended, sees that the home is built. Jan Pisek is a second father to John and later to John’s children.

Three generations of Marstons call Windswept home. They revere Windswept the way Scarlett O’Hara reveres Tara. Whenever anything bad happens, they head for Windswept.

But Windswept is no Tara.

Among the entire Marston clan there’s not one memorable personality. Chase’s sea-gray characters meet every crisis with New England stoicism. These are practical people, with no passion for anything except Windswept itself.

If gray is your favorite color, you’ll love this novel.

Mary Ellen Chase
MacMillan 1941
440 pages
1941 # 10
My grade: C-
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni